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FEBRUARY NIGHT SKIES AND UNSEEN BLACKHOLES By Dr Noorali T Jiwaji ntjiwaji@yahoo.

com Blackholes, as the name suggests, sound a bit frightening. One may imagine a hole in the ground that is so dee , without a bottom, where the only thing you can see nothing but blackness. But, can you !see! blackness" Blackness is a lack of light, which means no #isible light is coming from the bottom of the dee well. $o when you !see! black, the fact is that you are seeing nothing% The astronomical blackholes get their name from a similar effect & no light can come out of a blackhole. 'ight is of many ty es, some #isible (like the blue, yellow, white light that we see) while others are in#isible (like the heat rays from the side of a hot sto#e, the radio wa#es, the *&rays). + blackhole does not allow +N, light, #isible or in#isible, to go out of the blackhole. $ince light is the fastest thing in nature, this means that NOT-.N/ can esca e from inside a blackhole. The radius from which nothing can esca e, not e#en light, is called the e#ent hori0on. The idea of blackholes was first ut forward in the late 1233s and was de#elo ed as the life cycles of stars continued to be understood using 4instein5s theories. Blackholes were found to be one of the ossible final roducts when stars end their li#es. $te hen -awking, a com letely hysically in#alid scientist who communicates with using com uter technology, e6 lained the hysics of blackholes in 1723. $ince the only way that we ha#e of knowing about things that are so far away from us is by measuring radiation that we recei#e from that object. But a blackhole does not allow any light to esca e from it. $o we may ask, can we e#er see a blackhole" Blackholes were first disco#ered by their indirect effect through gra#itational attraction of material from nearby stars. +s the material circled and fell into the blackhole it ga#e off *&rays which could be detected from 4arth. The first such e#idence of a blackhole was found in 1728 from the 9ygnus *&1 blackhole. .n 172: -awking calculated that due to ;uantum effects (i.e. due to the beha#iour of matter at subatomic le#el), radiation can be emitted from the e#ent hori0on (see abo#e). -owe#er, the radiation is #ery weak and not easy to detect from 4arth. -awking made headlines last month when he ronounced that !there are no blackholes with a definite e#ent hori0on below which nothing can esca e!, which the media took to mean that !black holes don5t e6ist!. This caused a stir in ublic about science because something that had been ro#ed to e6ist by such an eminent scientist (-awking) was now being denied by the same scientist, thus utting doubts on all conclusions of science, including the global warming catastro he that is u on us.

.t turns out howe#er, that it is com leted unfounded to doubt truths re#ealed by science. -awking was im lying that due to ;uantum effects the e#ent hori0on is not fi6ed hence something can esca e a blackhole. But the energy that esca es is in such a mi6ed u form that the information that comes out of a blackhole has no relation to the information that was sucked into it in the first lace. -ence the blackholes remains just as black, and they do indeed e6ist% +mong the night sky delights that we can enjoy this month is Ju iter in /emini which is brighter than the brightest star $irius and the second brightest star 9ano us. These three form an almost straight line that can be seen almost directly o#erhead around 7 m in the /emini constellation. 4arly risers can enjoy brilliant <enus in the 4ast just before sunrise. .t continues to climb higher in the sky and become brighter as its sha e through a telesco e changes from the current crescent sha e to half hase at highest ele#ation, of around :3 degrees, by the end of =arch. =ars enters the early night sky this month in the east around 13 m. .t can also be seen high in the sky just before sunrise. .t is relati#ely faint but a distinctly see as a red oint that does not twinkle. .t is in retrograde motion at the moment, mo#ing westwards towards the bright star $ ica which is the brightest star in <irgo constellation. .t will continue to brighten to dee red until it reaches ma6imum brightness in early + ril. $aturn is also a morning lanet and enters the e#ening skies around the beginning of ne6t month. Just before sunrise $aturn can be seen almost o#erhead. /et more and recent details from the +stronomy .n Tan0ania website> htt >??www.astronomyintan0ania.or.t0 The =oon is ne#er New this month, ha#ing assed through the New =oon hase on @3th January and the ne6t one being on 1st =arch. -ence the Aull =oon occurs e6actly in the middle of the month on 1:th Aebruary, the <alentine day. The early e#ening night sky cut across by the dense collection of stars and interstellar clouds of the =ilky Bay band running from south to north. The constellations within the ath of the =ilky Bay are 9+N.$ =+JOC (the big dog) with its brightest star $irius, OC.ON (the hunter) with its numerous nebulae and the red giant Betelgeuse, T+DCD$ (the bull) which has two star clusters, -yades and Eleiades and the red giant star +ntares. The E4C$D$ (son of Feus) constellation contains the famous +ndromeda gala6y that is two million light&years away but can be seen with the naked eyes in dark skies as a cloudy atch. Ainally the B sha ed 9+$$.OE4.+ (the ;ueen) is in the north. + new addition this month is the A+'$4 9CO$$, an asterism that closely resembles the kite sha ed $ODT-4CN 9CO$$ but whose long diagonal does not oint south. 'ocate it after 7 .m. as it rises in the southeast. '4O (the lion) raises its head in the east at G .m. and should be easily recogni0able by 7>@3 .m.

Ai#e of the to ten brightest stars can be recogni0ed using the star ma > The brightest star is Sirius in 9anis =ajor, second brightest is Canopus towards the south. Rigel is in OC.ON , Procyon is to the east of Orion, Achernar will be setting in the southwest and Betelgeuse is in OC.ON. +fter 13 .m. they will be joined by Alpha- and Beta-Centauri, the bright #ertical air stars rising below the $ODT-4CN 9CO$$. The .nternational $ ace $tation (.$$) will be clearly #isible on 8nd =arch and e#en better on @rd =arch. On 8nd it will rise in the northwest at G>3@ m mo#e towards the southeast arallel and to the west of the =ilky Bay. .t will reach the highest ele#ation at G>3H m and will disa ear suddenly from #iew a few seconds later as the satellite enters the shadow region. On @rd =arch the .$$ will rise, again, in northwest at 2>1: m, and will follow the =ilky Bay to its east. .t will reach ma6imum altitude at 2>12 m and will set in the southeast hori0on at 2>83 m. =ore u to date timings for s ecific location can be obtained from their website htt >??www.hea#ens&abo#e.com and entering the coordinates of your location. The global /lobe at Night cam aign to reduce ligtht ollution and conser#ing dark skies, takes lace this month from 17&8G Aebaruary and for =arch it will be done from 81&@3. During this time, measurements of light ollution are done by com aring stars that are not #isible in olluted skies and com aring them to star charts of skies without light ollution. The data are collected centrally #ia their website htt >??www.globeatnight.org

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